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The Lehrstuck Experience on a Contemporary Stage: On Brecht and the GRIPS-Theater's Voll aufder Rolle GERHARD FISCHER Theatre-on-theatre can be described as a dramaturgical and scenic-theatrical strategy of consuucting play texts that contain, within the perimeter of their fictional reality, a second or internal theatrical performance, featuring actors playing other actors and an "internal audience'" present on stage which acts as a double to the actual audience. This strategy has a long tradition in dramatic literature, and it has fascinated and challenged playwrights who have used it for a variety of purposes up to this day. Three different, perhaps paradigmatic approaches can be distinguished. One might be called an example of meta-theatre: theatre-on-theatre as used by dramatists who wish to make a statement on theatre itself and who do so by employing the theatrical medium. Models as diverse as Moliere's L'[mpromptu de Versailles, Goldoni's II tealro comico or Handke's contemporary Publikumsbeschimpfung fall into this category; they share a common strategy that allows the authors to investigate the nature oftheatre and to comment on theatre as an institution or a profession, providing them with an opportunity to present a critique of the existing theatre or to legitimize their own contribution as writers forthe stage. A second variety is characterized by the "Teatro nel teatro" - plays of Pirandello which aim at critically investigating the problem of play versus reality, of "being" and "appearing", truth or illusion, on stage as well as outside the theatre in the communicative interaction of society. In these exemplary texts, the reflection on theatre as a means of exploring the essence ofhuman existence goes hand in hand with a process ofpsycho-social analysis in which individual characters are being unmasked, their attitudes and actions found out as "poses" or "acts" in an attempt to lay bare the core of individual human identity. The third approach is characterized by plays of a Brechtian theatre. There is already in Brecht's theory of Veifremdung an element of theatre-within-the-theatre, a strategy of accentuating the "theatricality" of a given dramatic moment or "gesture" in order to make something appear as strange, unfamiliar, noteworthy, allowing 372 GERHARD FISCHER the audience the chance of critical intervention rather than an unquestioning acceptance of the story presented on stage. The manner in which Polly in The Threepenny Opera sets the scene prior to her singing the "Pirate Jenny" song by playing out the imagined situation to the internal audience, Macheath and his gang, is a typical instance of a V-Effekt creating a second theatrical reality that adds to, comments on and questions the first.2 The technique of alienation is, of course, central also to the plays that comprise the corpus of Brecht's Lehrstiicke,3 but in these texts Brecht has gone one step further in developing his theatrical practice, in the end rejecting the traditional notion that lies at the core of "bourgeois" theatre: the consensus of theatre as apublic performance to an audience within aspecific theatre venue as an aesthetic and cultural event. According to the Lehrstiick-theory, plays such as The Measures Taken are not primarily meant to be presented to an audience; they are devised to contribute to a collective process of self-realization ("SelbstversHindigung") of authors and others involved in the exercise.4 The texts were written to be used by groups of amateurs, ideally members of working-class cultural organisations as Brecht found them towards the end of the Weimar Republic, and they were not meant to teach an audience but rather offer a stimulus to set in motion a process of theatrical work through which the participants would be leaming: "The lehrstiick teaches by being played not by being seen.,,' The break with traditional theatre aesthetics and the new focus on theatre as a form ofexperimental, sociological workshop that, without the need for audiences, functions as part of a larger pedagogic-political movement is certainly Brecht's most radical contribution to redefining the nature and function of theatre; it is also, for a number of reasons, the least understood part of his theatrical oeuvre. The Lehrstuck phase in Brecht's career came...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 371-379
Launched on MUSE
2013-07-03
Open Access
No
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